dear diary :: homecoming

Well that was a long journey down home, but then we did stop for a break in Castle Douglas, which is one of my favourite places on the way to the border, and of course I was tempted into all the lovely little shops there.

The lady in the craft shop kindly exchanged the packet containing a circular crotchet hook (never knew there was such a thing) that I had bought on our way to the cottage for a circular knitting needle that I had intended to buy! They don’t normally do exchanges (she must have taken pity on me) but there was a price difference to rectify , the knitting needle being £2 less than the crotchet hook, so the attempt to do an exchange on the till didn’t work…no matter I said I will have a look around and buy something else so you don’t have to do a refund. It wasn’t hard to find things, in fact I spent another £10 so she did quite well out of the exchange! I bought some of those moulded cardboard pumpkins for painting or decoupage, some coloured raffia skeins for present wrapping and a sheet of the decoupage tissue paper.

Moving on to the Artists and Craftmakers Cooperative shop I found a lovely little card for my friend. He is 81 today and has need of nothing, but he does like wood – he taught woodwork at school and used to make wooden things himself. The card has a tiny piece of decorated driftwood on it which I then put into this natural wood frame from Dunelm to make a picture.

In the Designs Gallery Bookshop I discovered these pretty little packs of decorated letter wring papers that fold up to post (I forgot to take a picture before I wrapped them but you can see them here-https://cardsandgiftwrap.co.uk/product-category/stationery/cards-and-letterwriting/pigeon-folded-letters) perfect for another friend whose birthday is tomorrow.

This morning I had to make four very quick birthday cards for 3 friends and my niece. I wanted them to reflect the change of season so I used a recent water colour sketch I did at the cottage of the hawthorn berries and overlaid part of a poem by Samuel Butler which is very suitable for the season. It is wonderful what you can do on the computer these days!

With all the crafty bits out of the way and the cards written and presents wrapped ready to deliver or post we took a walk down to the village and dropped off the card and present to today’s recipient. I am spending what is left of the day making Lentil Shepherds pie to go with some fresh sweetheart cabbage, then I will do a few Somatic exercises to loosen up my tight hips from the long journey home and afterwards probably collapse for the evening in front of the TV for a couple of hours of catch up. We missed the Manhunt series with Martin Clunes so that will be first on the list.

Yesterday we unpacked all the bags, sorted the heap of washing into piles (I am praying for good weather to get all the washing done and outside on the line) and then went food shopping. We don’t normally go on a Friday and as expected it was busy. We had to weave around the shelf stackers and their cage trollies who were out in force down each of the aisles nd one or two items I had to pick out of their stock cages or off the top of the fitments where they keep boxes of extra stock before it is put out onto the shelves. The pasta shelves looked like they had been raided but thankfully no-one was interested in the organic wholewheat spaghetti and I could have taken a box full. Not being greedy I only took 2 packets.

Generally for my pantry stocks of jars, cans, dried foods etc I replace items only when they come on offer with the red shelf tickets unless I am desparate enough or have run out of something and am forced to buy it at full price. I also find myself rejigging the menu plan a bit in the fruit and veg aisles to accomodate any offers. This week the mushrooms were on offer so we bought extra to make a large batch of mushroom soup. Other fresh foods I buy weekly like milk and yoghurt from the chiller aisles I have to rely on striking lucky with any offers.

In the past we have tried the Sainsbury’s SmartShop self scan using their handsets – four times to be exact – Scan, bag and go they advertise, it couldn’t be simpler – but each time there was a problem for us and it wasn’t simple far from it so we gave up went back to the normal checkout method. However, Sainsbury’s are now offering extra reductions on certain items when you do a Smart Shop which is also linked to the Nectar card. Now I have no intentions of going back to doing a full shop using their Smart Shop method but I was attracted by the hefty reductions offered on the Nectar card of items we do normally buy (about 10 in all and they change weekly) so I sent DH round with the Smart Shop handset and a basket to gather up all the offer items and take them through the self scan whilst I did the bulk of the shopping in the normal way.

I am not sure this is exactly what Sainsbury’s have in mind! They are trying to steer everyone over to their Smart Shop way of shopping and have already started reducing the number of tills. I am presuming that tempting people with these extra offers is their new line of attack. So I just thought I would play them at their own game – it worked quite well and gave DH something to do whilst I concentrated on doing the bulk of the shopping from the menu plan…oh and having a casual look around the magazines, the clothes and the homewares without him hovering over me (I was good though and no purchases made from these departments). We will try doing this again next week – it seems a fairly easy way to save a bit more money to me.

So busy days ahead I feel. The garden here needs sorting out, tidying up and putting to bed. I have ripe tomatoes in the greenhouse and outdoors to pick and what seems like a final courgette. I have a fancy to sow some winter salad under the cloches (just an idea at the moment) and I have packets of bulbs waiting in the wings to plant.

Then there is the laundry, some cleaning and a bit of reordering in the house to attend to. I had already switched over the contents of my wardrobe for the new season before we went to the cottage and I have adventurous plans whirling around in my head for putting in some drawers and shelving inside the wardrobe so it is better fitted out……. when we can carve out some time.

Have a relaxing Sunday everyone x

dear diary :: back to normal

After the events of the last few days we are slowly settling back into normality….. such as it is here. 

The heating is on when we need it, which is mainly to take the chill off in the morning, we have hot water once again so we have showered, washed our hair and the dishes are done making us respectable once more.   I have hoovered the floor whilst listening to radio 4 and it is heaven to have all these facilities we normally take for granted; no wonder then that my thoughts recently have been with all the refugees that are experiencing hardship day after day.  How on earth do they cope? At least during our powerless plight we had a roof over our heads and a gas cooker enabling us to make a meal and a drink.

And somehow whilst we were thrown into mayhem October crept in….how did that happen?

Yesterday we had planned for rain all day but mid-morning it stopped and the sun appeared and it turned out to be a glorious day.  So we gardened all afternoon.  We did far too much and regretted it later especially when with our aching backs we had to prepare and cook the tea when all we really wanted to do was collapse in a heap sit and relax. 

I didn’t even sleep well last night; we were early to bed, well early for us, and after only 10 minutes reading turned the lights out and we must have both been asleep within minutes. All was snug but then something woke me at about 2am and after that my mind began to churn over – never a good sign and never conducive with sleep. 

It rained heavily again this morning so I spent a good hour updating my yearbook.  It is my catchall – part notebook, part bullet journal, part task lists and diary but also filled with snippets of information I want to refer back to at some point.  At the beginning of each month I go through my Country Living magazine and pull out anything of interest and stick it in my notebook.  This month for instance I have cut out the snippet about Asda starting a vintage clothing section in 8 of their stores.  You are able to swap unwanted clothes for vouchers apparently. I also kept the recipe for the cold remedy ginger and poached pear which sounds like something I might drink even without a cold…..and I am very tempted to buy this book ‘How to Grow Plants from Seeds’ published by RHS. Or perhaps something for my Not so Secret Santa list.

We ate the last of the mushroom soup for lunch which we made just before our power cut and couldn’t really eat because of course the stick blender is electric so it went into a large pyrex bowl to be stored in the fridge. Even though the fridge was off for a few hours during the power cut everything in there seemed OK and we have no ill effects from eating it (and of course we don’t eat meat or that might have been something we would have had to throw away).

Tonight we decided on an easy evening meal so we chopped loads of veg, tossed them in oil and slung them into a baking pan to roast in the oven.  It is one of my favourite autumn meals.  We had sliced Halloumi (which we brown in a hot non-stick frying pan with no oil) and couscous to go with it though it is just as nice with brown rice or often we add a little Passata to make it more moist and stew like and eat it with large chunks of Ciabatta bread dipped into the sauce.

Last night I managed to finish the front bodice of the little dress I am making for Sweetie.  I was quite pleased with myself as being quite a novice knitter I am never very sure if I am actually understanding the pattern instructions correctly and I have no-one other than Google to ask. Well it looks quite even on both sides of the neck and I even managed to ‘fashion’ the decreases around the armhole and neckline, which wasn’t actually written in the pattern but I think it looks so much neater and I find makes it easier when sewing together at the end.

There are some nice little corners in our cottage garden appearing.  Some planned but also some surprises. Did I mention we gave the very large and leggy pink rhododendron the chop this year and cut it back almost down to the base, then crossed our fingers.

Before

Luckily it has started sprouting but the huge hole it has left in the garden is testament to how large it had become over the years, however, in the meantime while it is regenerating we can see the beautiful weeping larch tree beyond which nicely frames the view into the lower wood beneath.

After

I spent a good hour in the fernery by the pond (Polystichum munitum – Western Sword fern) a great fern for coastal areas with glossy deep green leaves that are evergreen and doesn’t die back in the winter but does require any browned and dead leaves removing every so often to keep it looking at its best. I also have to reduce the mass occasionally when is begins to creep further and further into the woodland garden, overstepping its allotted boundaries.

My little seat beneath the old Cherry tree is now completely covered in moss but I shall keep it like this and find somewhere else to sit as it has such a lovely natural appearance. I spent a few minutes picking up more windfalls from the Bramley tree and this year we salvaged one or two eating apples from the young Braeburn, planted 2 years ago. It only produced 5 apples and three of these must have dropped and rotted before this visit. After taking the photo we shared the larger of the Braeburns and it was extremely nice – not too sweet and quite crisp just how I like them. Hopefully there will be more next year.

I have a mass of daffodil bulbs to plant out – I must have dug these up prior to Covid and with all the disruptions and lockdowns last year never got them into the ground. All that lovely natural raffia attached though.

I never managed to find a rose for the garden arch either because of the restrictions so in desperation to have something, anything climbing on it this year I picked up two cheap Clematis in Morrisons the ones for £2 each. The one on the right has taken off better than the one on the left and I now have stones in place to protect it from Kelly (who cuts our grass when we are not here) and her strimmer! For £2 each though they are not doing too badly.

And I love this little ‘green’ corner with all the different leaf shapes.

And with the weekend almost over we will be back to Monday soon enough and we shall have to make plans to return home where, according to my neighbour who is looking after things for us, we have an abundance of ripened tomatoes!

dear diary :: a bit of a drama

The weather has changed.  It is much cooler now with rain and wind passing over and thereby limiting what we will be able to do in the garden.  There is a glimmer of sunshine on the horizon as I write this.

My next few posts might be picture less as I find that my data allowance on my phone is now at zero and won’t renew until 10th October. DH’s allowance is also low so uploading photos onto the internet to prepare a post will not be possible.   I can possibly add a few pictures I have used before on my blog as above.

We have spent the last day or two in a mini drama or was it a crisis?

I am not sure but it all began on Wednesday.

Wednesday is our wheelie bin day and after it was emptied I mentioned to DH that it needed a good clean inside and out.  Whilst our bin was waiting to be emptied (we have to take it up the lane and place it in the car park next to the pub / caravan site business bins, which incidentally are always overflowing) someone from the site (possibly a workman) had dumped some kind of glue in ours and it was all over the lid.  In fact some of the rubbish had stuck to the lid as the bin men emptied it.

Luckily DH managed to clean it off and gave the inside a ‘good do’.

But then our problems began – not with the bin but with the shredder.  We have a pile of woody prunings, some of it will have to be burnt but some will shred.  In fact I used to shred most of it up to the flood.  Since then for many reasons we have not done any.  We didn’t even remember if the shredder still worked from being caught in the flood.

So DH got it out of the garage and plugged it in to try it.  He used a socket in the boiler house attached to the cottage but when he switched it on nothing happened.   He wondered if the socket was working so decided to get out the extension cable and plug the shredder in to a more reliable socket in the caravan just to double check.

When he switched it on this time it started up but then died away again.  At this point I noticed my lap top screen had dimmed then realised it had switched over to the battery because there was no longer any power in the caravan.  DH checked the little consumer unit in the caravan but nothing had tripped, he then checked the mini consumer unit in the garage that feeds the caravan and the main fuse board in the cottage that feeds the garage but again nothing had tripped.

Very puzzling.  DH reset all the breakers anyway but still no power.  We checked with local villagers and the pub that it wasn’t coincidentally a local power cut but no it was just us.  By this time it was about 4 o’clock in the afternoon and soon it would be dark, so we made an urgent call to Scottish Power.

Although, as we found, it is not possible these days to make an urgent call anywhere.  We went through a series of press one for this and two for that until seven sets of options down the line we finally spoke to a real person and explained the problem.  The lovely lady with a Scottish lilt on the other end told us a team would be alerted but it would be 3 hours before they might get to us.

We prepared for the long wait – put on extra woollies and socks and luckily found a couple of emergency candles in the cupboard.  We worked out that even though the gas boiler wouldn’t run the gas cooker would still work as you can light it with a match.  Somehow in semi darkness we managed to make a simple pasta meal using a carton of cheese sauce in the fridge and peas from the freezer.

The men arrived at about 8 o’clock.  They tested the incoming line to our main consumer unit in the cottage which is actually an old type of fuse board with old fashioned fuses.  At first they thought their incoming power cable was all fine and the problem was somewhere further in our system between the cottage and caravan which meant they could not deal with it and we would need to get an electrician.  But they too were puzzled as to why nothing had tripped.  They scratched their heads and had another look at things and went up the pole outside the cottage to check the connecters.   Electricity in rural places here in UK comes down on wires suspended on wooden telegraph poles rather than running underground.  We have three poles one at the top of the wood by the main road, one at the bottom of the carpark and a final one near to the cottage as you can see in the photo above.

Eventually they thought there was something not quite right with the meter and also noticed they kept getting a high neutral reading from their main fuse box (yes that means nothing to me either).  They obtained permission from Scottish Power to bypass the meter thinking this might sort it. 

It didn’t – still no power in either the cottage or caravan.  By eleven o’clock they were still checking and rechecking but no nearer to solving the mystery and had convinced themselves it could only be a faulty meter and told us to ring SP in the morning for a new one and at the same time find an electrician to check the consumer units in the cottage / garage and caravan.

Easier said than done when our phones were down now to 10% battery and my laptop had subsequently died too.  It was too late in the evening now to ask friends in the village to charge up our phones and Eric at the nearest caravan to us had gone home so when the men had gone we jumped in the car in order to have a run around as the only way we could think of (and by this time our thinking capability was diminishing) to recharge DH’s phone enough to be able to make calls the next day.

It was well after 1 o’clock when we hit the pillows (the very chilly pillows I might add as the temperature was way down by now).  We fell asleep exhausted with the faint chunterings being heard in the dark from DH cursing the fact he had ever got the shredder out!

Morning came and we began the search for an electrician.  A choice of about 2 in this area both had answer phones on and incidentally have never got back to us.   We tried wider afield to people in Newton Stewart over 30 miles away but all said it was too far to come out to us.

Pondering our next move as the food in the fridge was starting to ‘warm’ up a bit (by now it had been off for 18 hours), and we couldn’t shower or use the electric toothbrush or charge our phones.  There was a long queue to speak to anyone at Scottish Power about the meter and we had to abandon that to save charge.

Just at the point when we had no idea how we were going to resolve our predicament the two men from the night before appeared on the doorstep.  Still flummoxed by our problem their manager had suggested testing even further back along the incoming power lines that come down from the main road.  Thankfully they did and up and down the other poles later located the problem – corroded and weak contacts and connectors on the pole at the top of the wood by the main road.  They were old and had a mix of copper and aluminium which apparently corrode easily together and these days only one metal, usually aluminium, would be used.  It appears that for some reason they had never been replaced when the others had been on the other poles a few years before.

It was an ‘accident always about to happen’ the shredder was just the catalyst that put an extra load onto the power cable and disrupted the power at the weakest link but it does confirm that all our breakers in the consumer units and the old fuse board are working well.

The men repaired the connectors and reconnected the bypassed meter (a replacement no longer required) and I almost wept with relief when a few minutes later everything swung into life again at the caravan and the fridge and boiler settled once again into a welcome hum.

After the men had gone and we had showered and generally ‘bathed’ ourselves in a much warmer environment and thanked God for the diligence of these two workmen, who I could have hugged if Covid hadn’t prevented, we headed into Stranraer to stock up on candles, matches and torch batteries. DH this time muttering how fortunate it was he got the shredder out!

seasons :: warm September days

Such warm and glorious September days at the moment; but without doubt the very last of summer is slowly slipping away. I never mind too much though and I look forward to this new season like I do every season as each brings its own rewards. Even though the last of the flowers are fading fast the hedgerows here are bursting with colour, bright red hips and berries, leaves turning to that rich golden brown and the majestic skeletons of thistle and cow parsley towering above the dying grassy verges. 

For me this is the season of gathering. 

Gathering in the last of the homegrown produce from the garden; tomatoes, apples and courgettes…. gathering free food from the hedgerows and restocking my pantry with dried fruits, lentils and chickpeas (shortages allowing) ready for those warming one pot meals that go well together with chunks of homemade bread.

But there is also a different type of gathering that I look forward to – gathering new recipes to try at this time of year – I probably do most of my baking during this season, gathering books to read – old and new and magazines that will provide inspiration for the coming months, and of course gathering together candles and my cosiest of blankets ready for those long lazy evenings by the fireside and best of all gathering the family together around the table sharing a meal and a bit of chit chat.

We have been at the cottage here on the Mull of Galloway for just over a week now, the village is sleepy quiet as most of the visitors have returned home. We have spent most of our time as usual in the garden and I can’t deny that it has been such hard work.  A mixture of old age causing tired and aching muscles and a garden far too overgrown through not having been here for the last few weeks.

I had planned to do some knitting and a bit of tidying in the caravan when it rains and we couldn’t work in the garden but guess what….it hasn’t rained yet other than a little overnight.

DH has spent most of the time in the garden trying to reshape the holly trees which is a mammoth task.  They have not been attended to as they should have been and are far too tall and a bit misshapen.  Getting them back into a pleasing shape is going to be difficult. There is much muttering going on.

Meanwhile, I have been crawling around on hands and knees weeding in all the borders. They need a good sort out this autumn.  Some plants need dividing, some are just in the wrong place, and some need cutting back drastically. There is an abundance of chickweed this year but it is easily removed along with the bittercress and red campion but the alkanet not so as the tap root goes down deep into the soil.

I have been snipping off the heads of the chamomile that self-seed around the seaside garden to put in the flower press, they make wonderful cards

Each morning we seem to be finding a cooking apple on the lawn which has dropped from the very top of the Bramley tree; it is too high up for us to pick them so we just wait until they fall off and hope we get to them before the wildlife.  Yesterday whilst we were roaming around the countryside we picked some blackberries too so I could put the two together and make a blackberry and apple crumble. I don’t keep flour at the caravan or have any sugar (I like my apples tart though) so I cheated and bought a packet of Tesco’s crumble topping and stirred in a handful of desiccated coconut for extra crunch.  It was amazingly good.

Once our evening meal is over and the washing up done we both flop for a while. I usually play a couple of games of patience but recently I have become addicted to those Codeword crossword puzzles. Normally I have just torn the odd one out of the back of my mum’s Woman’s Weekly that she passes on to me but this week I actually bought myself a book of them in Tesco.

After ringing my mum at 8 o’clock (when I know she will have watched Maigret which is being rerun at the moment) we settle down to watch a video which I can play on my laptop as we don’t have a TV here at the cottage and the radio is often not that entertaining.

Currently we are going through the Royale Family box set….howling with laughter – I know all these people in one way or another though thankfully I can say my dad was absolutely nothing like Jim Royale and luckily my daughters are not like Denise in respect of their childcare!

We did have a day off from the gardening last Sunday.  It was a gloriously warm and sunny day so we made mushroom soup, poured it into a flask and went for a drive along the coast road to the neighbouring village of Ardwell for a picnic.  We drew into the picnic site that overlooks the bay and watched the seagulls bobbing about on the waves.

Afterwards we did a couple of quick 5 minute sketches before moving on to the Castle Kennedy estate to the tea room for a cup of tea and a scone…..saying yes to both jam and clotted cream as a treat. I brought the little piece of dried seaweed home with me so I can have another go. The light sitting on the beach was so bright that it was hard to capture the depth of colour and often it is easier to see this in a photograph more than in real life.

It was too late in the afternoon to go around the gardens so instead we drove on to New Luce and had a pleasant walk around the village.  I feel every day of sunshine is now quite precious as all too soon the weather will change.

I love this wee cottage and the gardens beyond. Each of them displays the personality of the owners.

Not sure if Mary and Billy refers to the occupants, two dogs or maybe even two goats!

A cottage with a true upcycled garden full of repurposed artifacts. I especially love the fact that the owner has used the front of an old shed as an archway.

Yesterday we were in WH Smiths in town and I own up to the fact that I couldn’t resist purchasing this year’s Country Living Christmas magazine. Starting to think about Christmas this early does go against the grain a bit but I do need to think ahead and start planning especially as I want to make more homemade presents this year for friends and I need some inspiration.

Welcome as ever to new followers and readers – I am never quite sure why anyone wants to hear my ramblings but there you go – I know I always love to know what you are all doing.

back soon x

dear diary :: just stopping by

Just thought I would drop by and say hello – where has the time gone? (That same old question!!)

I have been battling recently….not with Covid or any illness, apart from my old age aches and pains, but just with life in general and in particular the pace of my life. Recently I have not had the time to stop and think let alone write a blog post as I am experiencing many upheavals that I hadn’t actually bargained for.

Currently, both my daughters are on the move and requiring a little bit of help. One daughter rents and her move is imminent the other daughter is trying to prepare her house for sale and although we cannot help inside we are allowed to go in the garden now so we have been giving that a bit of an overhaul.

Added to which we have had the usual trips up to north Yorkshire to visit and check on my mum whilst my sister has had a little respite from caring.

Since my last post both Mother’s day and Easter have been and gone (both quiet affairs for us this year) and little Freddie has gone back to nursery. The house fell extremely quiet when our services were no longer required but we had a load of jobs to catch up on and we are still wading through the list.

In between the usual jobs around the house I managed a few hastily made cards – including these 3 tiny Easter ones for each of the grandchildren…..

….a few simple stamped ones for my family and friends…..

….and one for a friend who sadly lost her daughter this month a few years ago.

We have continued to walk without little Freddie with us and discovered more new tracks and paths near to where we live with glorious views stretching out towards the moors.

One day we had to collect a machine part from Buxton for the chain saw so we packed up a picnic lunch to eat in the car and then took the opportunity of stretching our legs around the lovely Pavillion Gardens.

I was overjoyed to see that the Crescent has now been completely renovated – over the years we have watched its demise but now it stands once again as it would have looked in its prime. Originally designed by John Carr of York it is a very significant building and popular in Georgian England as a very stylish hotel and spa attracting people from all over the country to bathe in the thermal waters of Buxton. It became a spa destination as far back as in Roman times, when a settlement was built around a clear, warm-water spring that still sends up more than one million litres a day from the original source underneath the Buxton Crescent.  

I have almost forgotten now exactly what I have been doing day to day over the last weeks – but it hasn’t been lounging around thats for sure. There has been a lot of catching up to do in the garden – we lost quite a few plants over winter and the frosts have been quite vicious here attacking the new shoots on the hydrangeas more than once.

Most days have been bright and sunny although still very cold but it has been quite cosy in the greenhouse where I have at last managed to sow some seeds.  The garden is starting to take shape as everything springs to life once more after some very persistent wintry days.

I wish I could say the same for inside the house where we seem to be continually on high alert ‘mess wise’ with a growing pile of things to be put away everywhere I look.  There is still unpacking to finish from the recent trip up north to see mum, this task being abandoned mid week to attend to urgent paperwork, which was not on my task list as it related more to someone else’s problems rather than our own, but nonetheless had to be dealt with.

I managed a few days catching up with my own paperwork – balancing statements, scanning bills and setting up payments online.  DH has made another start on the Laundry room fixing the damp floorboards by the back door where water seems to be coming in.  We ordered a Karcher commercial style vacuum cleaner (like a Henry) on the internet as there is no shop around here that stocks them. We used to have one at the cottage which had to be skipped after the flood; they are really good for those excessively dirty or dusty jobs like cleaning out the car or when decorating and should help preserve my lightweight Dyson which doesn’t take kindly to swallowing up chunks of plaster and grit.

I have in mind that I need to get back to doing a little exercising to ease my stiff back, hips and shoulders which occurs every morning after a night in bed.  I used to be very flexible and even now have a good range of motion but my joint and muscles have been a problem since I had my thyroid removed and I am dependant on taking the synthetic Levothyroxine each day, which does the job of the thyroid but not nearly as well. A lump appeared in my neck a few weeks ago so my consultant sent me for an ultra sound and I am now waiting for a CAT scan so they can see more – after this it might be a biopsy – I am trying not to think too hard about what it might be – hopefully not serious and not a return of the cancer.

Presently, I do feel rather lethargic – more in mind than body and with the new ‘ease down’ everyone is out and about but I am finding the crowds and the busyness out there quite overwhelming and even after a short walk to the village I can’t wait to get back behind our own front door, back in the peace and quiet we have grown accustomed to now.  Up until today we have not even attempted to go out to the shops (other than the usual supermarket run for food) or to sit outside in a café – I just don’t feel I want to mix in this overloaded environment.  It all feels rather artificial and for the moment I am quite content staying at home. Having said that we are about to pack to go up to Scotland to our cottage but we will be keeping ourselves to ourselves up there; I feel certain the jungle of a garden will keep us quite busy. It will be amazing to be back by the sea though I have missed the sound of the waves at night.

I have little other news to tell so I won’t ramble on but before I go I must say welcome to my new followers that have appeared in my absence; even though I have written no new posts for a while – I can only apologise for the lack of attention I have given to this little space and hope to do better. And thank you Cathy for your kind message it has spurred me on to write this post.

I hope all my readers are well and enjoying the better weather. Once again I have so much catching up to do – story of my life! I might even manage a post or two when we are up there. Until then…..

dear diary :: on a brighter note

Thank you for all the comments yesterday – I really value your support and comments. I know most people probably have some family issues from time to time without actually being a dysfunctional family. As a family we have always stuck together and we will get through this. I know that mum is a very unhappy person at the moment and lashing out at everyone but I am surprised that this now includes my sister as she has always been her favourite; she is eleven years younger than me and the baby of the family so she was left at home with mum and dad from being six years old when my brother and I left for Art College. They have always been so close, worn the same style clothes and at one time had similar tastes in furniture and spent a lot of their time together including holidays so it is sad to hear how she is starting to complain so much about her.

On Sunday we will go up to North Yorkshire to see her for the day and give my sister the Sunday off. I usually take a homemade Quiche, a trifle and a chocolate cake (all mum’s favourites) and of course some Sainsbury’s shopping – unlike my sister I do go to Sainsbury’s so it really won’t be any trouble. I am hoping my visit will cheer her up and have a lasting effect for a while. I might even take my box of photos so she can sit and reminisce for a while of the ‘good old days’ and I will politely listen as if I have never heard the stories before (even though it will be the umpteenth time I have been told them!).

The washer comes today and DH failed to get the new flooring down in the utility – there was no hope really once the leaks had to be dealt with but at least we have made a start on stripping the walls.

We decided not to change the units in here, even though we have had them for years, probably 30 years, but they are plain grey so back in fashion and go quite well with our new cabinets in the kitchen. They consist of a double wall cupboard and one of those slim line pull out larder cupboards with wire shelving. A good clean down and some new handles and I think they will be fine. I bought the wallpaper a few years ago now and I got it out the other day to see if I still liked it….and yes I do. There is only one wall papered the rest are painted so I only got two rolls as it was £20 a roll so I hope the pattern repeat is not too wasteful.

We had a long walk with Freddie in the afternoon. DH decided to down tools and go with us, but it was mostly in the rain – the cold damp rain.

We walked down the rough old mill road to the site of the dye mill – now demolished – until we could go no further with the pushchair.

We then walked back and along the road which runs parallel to the pleasure grounds but much higher up and it runs above this old terrace of mill houses where we once lived. I loved my old house it had four stories and some beautiful old features. By the time we sold we had lived there for 8 years and had done quite a bit of renovating. The modern estate house we are in now was only a stop gap for 3 years until we found our dream home. That was 36 years ago and we never did move to our dream home – instead once the girls had left home we bought the ‘retirement’ cottage in Scotland and began our 10 years of renovations before the flood took all that away.

We continued a little way down this road having a good nosy over the railings to see what our old neighbours had been doing to their houses – a lick of paint, some new windows but it is more or less the same as when we lived there. Eventually we cut off along a disused driveway and came across another snicket running through a more recent estate that took us back to the village. By the time we reached home the rain was quite heavy and our coats rather soaked.

Today is our recovery day after the childcare and I have lots to do on the list – chase up John Lewis again for one who have so far failed to send the ‘care package’ they promised last Friday. I also need to make the food to take up to mum’s for lunch and plant the pots of bulbs if they have not died of thirst in the greenhouse. Then I must try and tidy up this chaos around me, all I did last night was tidy the toys away and make our evening meal before collapsing in a heap.

I did pop my head around the door of the spare room that has become a temporary store for the laundry heap, pending the new washer. It had not self destructed – or washed itself – this new washer had better be good it has a lot of work to do.

Hope you have a good weekend everyone.

dear diary :: the ups and downs of caring

Some hard playing today – both Master Freddie and I are worn out! He has gone home now and after we have had our tea and I have rung my mum I will be unwinding and then an early night. It was a bit of a rush this morning trying to get showered and my hair dried and styled (if you can call it that as it has now grown out of all recognition of a hairstyle) before Master Freddie appeared.

We love watching Toddler Club together but all that singing, twirling, bopping and jumping around does tell on me, but he always likes me to join in and do the actions with him. At least the music covers all the creaking I make!

And who doesn’t love Hey Duggie – it is far too good for just children to watch – it reminds me of the Magic Roundabout that we all watched as a family just before the news and a lot of the humour in that was perhaps aimed at adults.

The utility room progresses…..s l o w l y……but is at least progressing. I have my doubts that DH can get the floor down now in time but it will be what it will be and at least the new washer will be plumbed into new pipework that doesn’t leak.

We had our usual walk today – Master Freddie loves to post a letter in the big red box outside the post office in the village so today we made a card using some of my stamps and inks for his mummy and daddy. It was a master piece (sorry forgot to take a picture) and then put it into an envelope and put it in the post. They will get a nice surprise in a day or two – and maybe Freddie will when it arrives and he recognises it as the one he posted. Of course both Freddie and granny had more ink on them than the card – but it was fun.

We saw the ducks in the tiny garden of one of the houses, counted the dongs on the church clock when it struck two…..

….and found little pockets of daffodils – even in some gloomy corners.

Despite the tiredness looking after Master Freddie is such a joy although not much housework is getting done here – a quick run round with the vacuum cleaner (does anyone else refer to it as the hoover?) to remove the Play-doh bits from the carpet (thanks for the warning Mary – no lasting damage thank goodness) and that was it – everything else will have to wait until the weekend…..well Saturday as we are planning on going up to see my mum on Sunday to give my sister a day off.

Caring for my mum is not proving to be the same kind of joy especially for my sister who lives near to her and sees her on the days the carers don’t go in. We have just had our Covid test which was negative so we like to go when we know we are at our safest and not likely to take anything in to her flat. My sister is struggling and there is little I can do to help ease the burden for her at the moment. Mum is very down with her situation – not just the virus and the lockdown but more because she cannot do anything by herself anymore and is reliant on others and they never do anything in the way she wants it doing. She has got into the habit of sitting all day and this is actually not helping her hip or shoulder as the lack of movement, the consultant told her, is costing her muscle tone and exacerbating the problem. She is not able to look after herself properly but would hate to go into a home and in any case would make the carer’s lives and ours a misery with complaints. At the moment she has a carer going in on Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 4pm and they can never do anything right and one or two have had their rotas changed so they can have a break from her. Many of the other residents just avoid her now wheras at one time would pop in. She is definitely becoming more negative as time goes on and doesn’t have a good word to say about anyone at the moment, not even my sister.

Last week she refused to eatany of the shopping my sister had taken her because she had bought it from Tesco and not Sainsbury’s. Apparently she cannot eat Tesco’s food and the corned beef wasn’t very nice even though she had not even opened it, she could tell it wasn’t very nice just looking at it. She is even convinced that Heinz tomato soup does not taste the same from Tesco – it is inferior to Sainsbury’s so she won’t eat that either. So guess who will be going to Sainsbury’s on Saturday to pick up some food for her. Should I be indulging her? Sister quite rightly is often in tears.

Mum has always been one of life’s complainers – but she is my mum and I want to do the best for her and so does my sister but she is not making it easy to care and look after her.

Life, I think, is about to get much more difficult.

dear diary :: progress (maybe)

There may be progress but I am not sure – DH continued in the utility room today – for one of the smallest rooms in our house we are experiencing far too many problems. The hot water pipe was disconnected and a new piece of that white plastic stand pipe purchased ( the one at the back of the machine that you hook the rubber hose into for the water to drain away) as it needed to be a few centimetres taller for this new washer (wouldn’t you just know it). DH came out of Wickes yesterday with the wrong circumference size in error and luckily I spotted it as he was loading it into the car so he had to return it only to find the 40cm he needed was out of stock. Back to B&Q.

When he was replacing the pipe into the ‘U’ bend trap or whatever it is (see how technical I am here) it did not fit and he realised the old pipe had at sometime been modified and rammed in – but not very well. So back again to town this morning to get a new trap thingy. That is all in place now and the wallpaper steamer was rolled out to remove the old wallpaper and paint which has been flaking off with all the moisture in there. The paint came off like a dream in the kitchen and dining room right down to the bare plaster – in the utility it is not budging…..an inch!

The washer comes on Friday and DH has not even started on the flooring yet.

I took Master Freddie out for a walk; down to the village to post a letter and then round the back way, which is a little longer than going straight home, to give DH more time to himself. I didn’t take any photographs today but I do have some from last week’s walk when we went through the pleasure grounds and I snapped a few more snickets and ginnels, so I will show you these.

The pleasure grounds were made for the mill workers and run alongside a stream that once served the old dye mill further up the valley – we used to live over the bridge on the other side. You follow a winding path through a wooded glade along the valley bottom.

Evidence here and there of a little yarn bombing or is it pom-pom bombing?

And many fairies live here…..

As well as some pretty frightening animals.

Eventually you pass the waterfall and come to a small fenced playground at the end which is well used by the little ones. Just a swing, a slide and a rocker but they provide hours of entertainment.

As we leave the pleasure grounds we are in a very old part of the village with some lovely old cottages……

….and the old co-op – established in 1827, it was one of the first co-operative societies and was formed nearly 20 years before the more famous Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers. It is unusual to find Georgian buildings in and around Huddersfield, which is mainly dominated by the heavy Victorian buildings, so this little Georgian terrace is one of my favourites.

And this is what I would call a ginnel – a passage way between a row of terraced houses that leads you round to the back.

This house has an even more unusual ginnel not only leading to the back of the house but also to the downstairs.

We made our way back through the maze of snickets which link this old part of the mill village to the main town and the main road. Pushing a pram up here was quite a workout.

Master Freddie will be here tomorrow – it is playdoh day I think. I am sure he would rather help out with the paint stripping so I have to keep him distracted – playdoh will do just that! I hope.

dear diary :: moving swiftly into March

It feels like winter again here – we awoke to a dense grey landscape of fog this morning and I could easily have pulled the covers over me and stayed put. There was no wind but the damp coldness seems to penetrate through to the bone and after a jaunt around town for paint samples, plastic water pipe and screws I was glad to get back home and in the warm.

It is perhaps just as well no gardening was undertaken this weekend as the little shoots springing up here and there are better off hidden and protected by the dead leaves and stems of last year’s plants which I leave for this reason. Our garden is 700 feet above sea level here with the Pennine hills looming above us at about 1600 feet over the ‘Isle of Skye’ road (a local name – you can read about it here) …..and Holme Moss not far away at about 1720 feet. So we know about cold and chilly weather and I can guarantee we will lose some of the plants over winter.

I bought a nice little terracotta planter from B&Q for my friend’s birthday. I would have planted it up with herbs but couldn’t find any so I bought 3 pots of dwarf bulbs instead. I took it round to him later in the afternoon, rang the doorbell and stepped away. He was delighted with his gift and once the bulbs are over he will be able to grow herbs in it.

Before tea I looked at the February task list to see which of the tasks remained – anything without a satisfying tick against it is rolled over to the March list – to my surprise there were only 3 tasks out of 28 not completed (two of which are craft related and not urgent by any means).

  • Sand down the DAS clay tags I made
  • Cut out the interfacing for the tablemats and tack together
  • Email the new owner of the caravan site by our cottage

I like to have my plan of action mapped out for the month in my year book. I assign a few pages each month for jotting down any tasks and ideas, books to read, websites to browse…..whatever takes my fancy. I stick in cuttings from magazines of recipes, decorating ideas that catch my eye or a new beauty product I might try. It is basically a catch all. Each year I begin a new notebook and the old one is placed on the shelf for reference. This month will be all about Mother’s day and preparations for Easter and I have no doubt a lot of gardening notes.

And birthdays…….. there are lots of those in March.

I am not sure how much longer we will have Master Freddie with us but I know I am going to find it hard when he goes back to nursery; I have got so used to having him here and taking him for walks. He is an absolute joy.

Must go and get some sleep now ready for the early start tomorrow. x

dear diary :: Sunday snooze before the Monday madness

Do you have days when you feel more on top of your game only to find yourself a bit lethargic the next day? Sunday (yesterday) was my day of very little achievement and after lunch I found myself curled up on the sofa watching Pauline Collins in Mrs Caldicot’s Cabbage War and trying hard not to fall asleep.

DH was under the floor most of the day yesterday, literally, trying to sort out the leak we had discovered when he had taken some of the floorboards up beneath where the old washer had stood. It smelled damp and further investigation uncovered a pipe with wet lagging. It was the hot feed pipe to a previous washer and although the valve was off it had obviously been leaking a tiny amount of water over 16 years (as that is how old the washer is now). So then more floorboards had to come up in the pantry to trace the hot water feed back to where it diverts off to the kitchen hot water tap. As most washers are cold feed only now and my new one is (we checked) DH was able to cut off and cap the hot feed so there should not be any more problems.

I had to spring back into life and leave the comfort of the sofa when I suddenly realised that it was the last day of February and the 1st March is the birthday of a very good friend and a milestone one too. During this lockdown I have tended not to bother with the date very much – as long as I know when it is Tuesday and I am ready for Master Freddie’s arrival (Mary called him that in her comment and I like it so much that is his new name!) then all is well in my world.

I had to set to and make a card quickly – I copied one I had done before for another male friend’s 60th birthday a few years ago and luckily he likes gardening and has an allotment so I should be able to pick up a gift for him from the garden centre. I wish I had realised before though as we were only up there on Friday getting the seed potatoes. Still any outing no matter how brief is welcome at the moment.

Ideally, as it was a sunny day (though still bitterly cold here) I should have been busying myself in the garden, as all my neighbours have been, but I didn’t want DH to think I had left him with all the rotten jobs whilst I had fun gardening. Not that I can do much to help him at the moment until he gets the pipes sorted and the floorboards back down – I am only the tea maker and plumber’s mate……….so during the morning I had turned my attentions to making a batch of soup for lunch with the bowl of very ripe tomatoes in the pantry – I have stopped keeping them in the fridge now and they do gain a lot more flavour. The pantry is cool and perfect for keeping the fruit and ripening avocados – it always looks quite colourful and healthy in there at a glance. Whilst the soup simmered I finished the last of the ironing pile. I ironed all the bedding on Saturday and changed the bed so apart from a shed load of washing I am at a straight edge with the laundry.

So today is going to be spent whizzing round to B&Q (for paint and sundries), Screwfix (for more screws – never the right ones in the garage) and possibly a garden centre to pick up a gift. I will pack a flask of hot chocolate in case it takes longer than we think. Then I need to gather pace at home to try and make some order of the chaos – we have the big larder fridge from the utility standing in a corner in the dining room and a table full of the utility cupboard’s contents covering the table. Master Freddie is going to have a whale of a time getting into all sorts if it can’t be moved.

DH will also have to gather pace putting down the new flooring – he has lost a good two days now because of the leak and the clock is ticking.

In and amongst all this I have decided that it is time I reorganise all our financial paperwork – I have been using the same system for many years now and it has been fairly good and reliable but I need a change and one that reflects the fact that we have many bills and receipts come in by email and all my banking is done online.

But that is another post.

Have a good day x